Think of the number of times you have pulled out the Yellow Pages to call for a tradesperson of some sort. What do you do when you call the first number and you get their voicemail? That's right - you hang up and call the next one. GUESS WHAT? Thats exactly what your clients do too!
An incoming phone call is the easiest potential piece of business that you can have. They are calling you to book - how else can they do this if you don't answer your phone?! So for those of you that are so 'busy' that you have to put your phone on voicemail - well all I can say is you may as well just forward all your calls to me as I am quite happy to take your business!
I personally think there is never an acceptable reason for a customer to be sent to a sales person's voicemail - unless the sales person is already on the phone or it is outside of normal business hours.
If a client does get your voicemail, your voicemail message should absolutely include an option to press # and an extension to be transferred to someone else in your sales office that can help. Your voicemail greeting should be brief and really encourage the customer to press the number to be transferred to the person that is eager to assist them.
If you are headed out of the office to an appointment your phone should be forwarded to a colleague to handle any incoming inquiries while you are out (which of course you will do in return when they are out). Same goes if you are out on vacation or sick days - forward your calls to a colleague - that way you might actually have some prospects waiting for you when you return to the office! This really has to be a team effort. Everyone in your office has to be prepared to answer anyone else's phone if they hear it ringing.
Also, enough with this 3 rings crap! I know, certain hotel management companies mandate that per their standard all calls have to be answered within three rings blah blah. Problem with this is that to satisfy that standard, the hotels set their voicemail to answer the call after 3 rings. Change this right now - if your voicemail is picking up after three rings speak to your phone tech to change it to 7 rings. Yes you should always try to answer within 3 rings, but opening up this window a little further will at least give your colleagues a chance to answer the call if you can't.
Remember a miss call usually equals missed business.